In Conversation: Brechtje

In Conversation: Brechtje

On commissions and creation with Amsterdam-based artist, Brechtje. 

In Conversation: Brechtje

On commissions and creation with Amsterdam-based artist, Brechtje. 

The Rosa Guitar Trio will be giving the world premiere of your brand-new work Zirve at the upcoming Dots+Loops Festival. Can you tell me about the process of writing this piece from inspiration through to the rehearsal period?

When Kieran asked me to compose for three guitars, I was already wrestling with a musical motive for a while. This rhythmical phrase that was so fierce that I had no idea what to do with it. I like it best when you can see musical material unfold itself; a little seed turning green and then branching out into a big complex organic tree. When listening to Rosa's repertoire, Ravel's string quartet in F and the cd with Paco de Lucia, Al di Meola and John McLaughlin, my starting phrase started to grow. 

Does your overall approach change when you’re working on a specific commission compared to working on your own projects?

In order to become meaningful, to have 'that spark' of truthfulness, every work needs to become a project of my own. Whereas my own projects originate from an idea that resonated in me from the start, commissions often bring along ideas that need to grow on me first. Once I've found out why indeed that idea so exciting to explore, the project will be one of my own.

You refer to yourself as a “musical omnivore”, seeking inspiration in a broad range of world musics and genres. Do you actively seek out new music to listen to or have you always enjoyed a diverse mix of artists and performers?

This will sound very vague, but: I love music that reaches me deeply in a physical way. Also, when music invites and challenges me at the same time, it grabs my full attention. And all of this doesn't relate to a specific genre or culture. I don't realize the boundaries of these musical worlds so much and therefore will experience the same excitement when listening to prog-rock as to Stravinsky's work as to old Persian songs.

When you’re at the beginning of a new work, how do you get in the zone to write and be creative? Do you have a tried-and-true method or does it change from project to project?

Getting ideas is not the difficult  part. Mainly, I need to work hard to channel my enthusiasm. Because I am so thrilled to see an idea come to life, I often forget then to think it through, to search for the most effective way to develop it into whatever form (3 hour long piece, installation, pop song, ballet, poetry, cake etc.) it needs. Saying that, next to enthusiasm, I also always try to keep on reflecting if I'm being led by expectation, laziness or assumptions. All of that should leave the creative hub ASAP, for the core idea to have the space to lead.

I know that if I just sit down, creation will happen. And that's not a gift, that's simply sitting down and giving it a try.

Your work has been performed all over the world in festivals and programs from Europe to the United States and now in Australia. Do your travels inspire the music you write in any way?

When traveling, I get loads of chances to retune my perspective on the world and myself and to expand my set of creative tools to develop ideas. The more you know of and understand, the more choices you can make. And the more choices you can make, the more sincere the work will become. Because those choices will be made anyways, either by the actually often not so interesting subconcience or by your quirky, unique mind.

For young composers getting started on their journey, do you have any advice about creating a career in the industry?

Take away everything any person in your professional surroundings could possibly complain about concerning your work, in advance. 

When you have a wild idea, come up with a strategy to make it happen. When that strategy asks for bluffing, be honest to yourself. Being honest doesn't mean talking yourself down, it means reflecting if you are physically capable to do that. If so, do it.

The Dots+Loops Festival opens on the 8th September at Brisbane's Cupo in Fortitude Valley. Tickets and more information here